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Jacob’s Trouble

The Evil Figs, to whom Ezekiel prophesied Ezekiel 18:1-32, among whom Jeremiah stood to prophesy Jeremiah 30:1-31:40, would be convinced of sin at last through and not without what Jeremiah prophetically called, “Jacob’s Trouble” (Jer. 30:7)! Above other prophecies, Jeremiah 30:1-31:40 illustrates the breaking-point of the Jews and how that in the end… they would repent. Extraordinarily, though, the Jews which Jeremiah portrays in the estate of eventual repentance are not the elect from among the Evil Figs, merely, but all Jews (of Israel or Judah) from every place (in Assyria, Babylon, Judah, or elsewhere). Explicitly named, God directed the prophecy to both Israel and Judah because both of their captivities would be restored (the Assyrian and the Babylonian Captivities) and the longtime divided people would be united as one (Jer. 30:3-4, 8-10, 18-22, 31:1, 10-14, 21-25). Central to this restoration is the working of genuine repentance through what Jeremiah called it: “Jacob’s Trouble”. This trouble, or Tribulation, is profoundly communicated in the following illustrations.

For thus saith the LORD; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that Day is Great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.” – Jer. 30:5-7

Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither. They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.” – Jer. 31:8-9

Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border. I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youthIs Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore My bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the LORD. Set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps: set thine heart toward the highway, even the way which thou wentest: turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities. .” – Jer. 31:15-21

As you can see, God was prophetically speaking to both Israel and Judah as one united family again (Jer. 30:4, 31:1). Therefore, in the above prophesies depicting Israel and Judah’s eventual repentance, the terms which did exclusively belong to Israel (the northern tribes) did then prophetically include both Israel and Judah (words like “Jacob”, “Israel”, “Ephraim”, and “My Firstborn”). Also, it is important to note that Hosea and Amos were Tribulation Prophets to Israel (the northern tribes) like as Jeremiah and Ezekiel were Tribulation Prophets to Judah. So, what Jeremiah called “Jacob’s Trouble” (Jer. 30:5-7) wasn’t new; the Prophet Hosea had already spoken of the punishment that God would inflict upon Israel and Judah using this paradigm. Hosea prophesied,

The LORD hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him. He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God: Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us; Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial. Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.” – Hos. 12:2-6

This event, where Jacob was made to weep in earnest supplication (Hos. 12:4), was rightly called a punishment and a recompense according to the controversy that God had against him; and God had a like controversy with Israel and Judah in the days of Hosea, Amos, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Most people don’t recognize that what happened to Jacob in Genesis 32:1-33:20 was a punishment from God; it most certainly was! With all things rightly considered this point is indisputable (for more information, see “Jacob”). Even so, confirming this, Isaiah the Prophet spoke of what Jeremiah called, “Jacob’s Trouble” (Jer. 30:5-7), saying: “by this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin” (Isa. 27:9). Can you believe it?

In Jeremiah 30:10-20, the LORD emphatically declared that both Israel and Judah’s bruises and wounds were incurable and without healing medicine, meaning that intercession unto the preservation of the two Kingdoms was impossible, but then the LORD pronounced the future restoration of health and the healing of wounds that only God could accomplish. This is the Glory of God in the Tribulation! Meaning, this is the redemptive purpose in Tribulatory Judgments – the people would be saved through it, and not without it! Looking closely, though, the LORD was careful to specify the identity of the individuals who will be restored to God’s Kingdom in the Holy Land (Jer. 30:18-24). In other words, so great a restoration was made possible by an exclusion of those who were unwelcome in the Church: “the wicked” (Jer. 30:23). Even so, Tribulatory Judgments did effectually target all wicked persons from among the Jews so that only the righteous would remain. Jeremiah testified,

Behold, the whirlwind of the LORD goeth forth with fury, a continuing whirlwind: it shall fall with pain upon the head of the wicked. The fierce anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have done it, and until he have performed the intents of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it. At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people. Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the Wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.” – Jer. 30:23-31:2

This clarification is perfectly complementary to Ezekiel’s message regarding the operation of the Tribulation, when he said: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezek. 18:20, Jer. 31:29-30). Of course, God was not meaning to save alive the wicked and restore them to the Promised Land! Jeremiah identified the people who would find grace in the eyes of the LORD: they were, “the people which were left of the sword” (Jer. 31:2). The sword of the Almighty and or the destroying weapons of holy angels would not leave alive any wicked person, that’s for sure (Ezek. 9:1-11)! Furthermore, the purifying operation of the sword is one and the same as the purifying operation of the Wilderness. It was written of these individuals that they “found grace in the Wilderness” (Jer. 31:2). How?

Hereby, and without coincidence, Jeremiah described the Tribulation experience of “Jacob’s Trouble” in terms of the sword and the Wilderness. Without coincidence, I say, because the Tribulation Prophets of Israel were the first to utilize these terms in reference to the Tribulation via the Assyrian Captivity. Israel’s captivity and dispersion via the Assyrians was a precursor to what would happen to Judah via the Babylonians. Therefore, the words, terms, and prophetic renderings of impending woe and eventual blessing (dispersion and eventual restoration) upon Israel - introduced by Hosea, Amos, and others – were elaborated upon in greater detail in reference to the dispersion and eventual restoration of Judah. Jeremiah and Ezekiel were inspired to give a detailed and extensive commentary on what happened to Judah using the same prophetic terms used to describe Israel’s Tribulation. Understandably so, greater detail was used to describe the Tribulation of Judah because she was the longstanding remnant of the people of Israel as a whole (Yet the LORD would not destroy Judah for David his servant's sake, as he promised him to give him alway a light, and to his children.” – 2 Kings 8:19). In other words, God was intent to bring things into focus with Judah. God was intent on establishing and memorializing the Doctrine of the Great Tribulation in no uncertain terms via the Captivity of Judah by Babylon.

Jeremiah the Prophet testified of the resounding parallelism insomuch that both Israel and Judah are addressed by the same title! The means by which God brought the “Kingdom of the House of Israel” to an end (with the intent to restore Church Purity; see Hos. 1:4) and the means by which God would restore it (Jer. 30:3-7) are methodically parallel even though the instruments that God used (the Assyrians and the Babylonians) and the Lands of the people’s dispersion were different (Assyria and Babylon). Of course, if God was going to bring Israel and Judah back together under “One Head” and in a purified estate (Hos. 1:10-11), the same purifying contraption was utilized successfully upon each Kingdom. For example, the choice rendering of prophetic terms used in that, God would strip and allure Israel into the Wilderness to slay her with thirst and kill her children (Hos. 2:3-4, 8-13, 14-15), is used in like manner to describe what God would do to Judah only more detail is provided. The Wilderness experience of God’s judgment upon Israel, referenced in Hosea 2:3-4 and Hosea 2:14-15, is elaborated upon in God’s judgment upon Judah. Therefore, first, let us understand the broad strokes of Hosea the Prophet in how he introduced the Wilderness doctrine; then we will be enabled to behold the significance of Ezekiel’s elaboration of the subject.